Washington, D.C. January 8, 2011. Today, Stephen Kohn, Executive Director of the National Whistleblowers Center, issued the following statement expressing his concern about the rise in retaliatory investigations in the wake of the WikiLeaks scandal:
The WikiLeaks scandal is being used to justify a witch hunt against federal employees suspected of being whistleblowers.
Currently, the NWC has obtained information documenting abusive investigatory tactics being used against federal employees, including monitoring the private emails and seizing computer hard-drives from employees who disclosed non-classified information to Congress. The U.S. Constitution protects government workers who report waste, fraud and abuse to the American people. However, in the first two years of the Obama presidency, more Americans have been indicted for alleged media leaks then under any other president in U.S. history, including Richard Nixon.
We are concerned that the administration is hiding behind the WikiLeaks scandal to identify and retaliate against other whistleblowers who have engaged in protected First Amendment speech, including implementing questionable psychological profiling in an attempt to find suspected leakers. The American people need to know about government abuses. Prosecutors involved in so-called “leak” investigations must respect the First Amendment rights of all federal employees, and cannot engage in unconstitutional investigatory tactics that will have a ‘chilling effect’ on the right of federal employees to disclose waste, fraud and abuse.
Congress must enact a National Whistleblower Protection Act to ensure that all Americans have legitimate channels to expose wrongdoing to appropriate authorities. The government cannot have it both ways. If employees are denied the right to expose wrongdoing through effective and legally protected channels, honest American civil servants will continue to leak information to the press and public. Until the law is fixed, we are in a lose-lose situation.